Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 6, 2018

Chris Hedges and Identity Politics

Filed under: Workerism — louisproyect @ 11:26 pm

One can only hope, maybe even pray, that the well-intentioned Chris Hedges knew very little about the Socialist Equality Party when he participated in a webinar with cult leader David North on January 25th that drew statements of support from the feckless Putinites John Pilger and Julian Assange. The webinar was devoted to a discussion of “Organizing Resistance to Internet Censorship” that grew out of the SEP’s campaign against the new Google algorithms that cut down on the number of “hits” that its website got. The campaign made it sound as if they were being singled out because of their threat to American capitalism whereas other left websites were affected as well.

Over on Truthdig that still has mud on its face for publishing Daniel Lazare’s Assadist propaganda, you can now read an article by Hedges titled “The Bankruptcy of the American Left” that takes the side of North’s super-sectarian sect-cult on “identity politics”. He found himself in complete agreement with this comment by the cult leader:

We totally reject the narrative that the working class is racist. I think this has been the narrative pushed by the pseudo-left, middle-class groups who are drunk on identity politics, which have a vested interest in constantly distracting people from the essential class differences that exist in the society. Dividing everyone up on the basis of race, gender, sexual preference fails to address the major problem.

Hedges also recommends the writings of the Boston College sociologist Charles Derber:

The left offers no broad critique of the political economy of capitalism. It’s largely an identity-politics party. It focuses on reforms for blacks and women and so forth. But it doesn’t offer a contextual analysis within capitalism.

As an example of the bankruptcy of identity politics, Derber mentions gay people wanting to “fight in the military” since this amounts to “legitimating the American empire”. He asks, “If you were living in Nazi Germany, would you say I want the right of a gay person to fight in combat with the Nazi soldiers?” I suppose that you might as well have denounced civil rights activists demanding equal rights for African-Americans in the military as well, or at least making sure that if they became soldiers that their duties be limited to non-combat roles such as washing dishes or ironing an officer’s uniform, as was once a common practice.

Much of this conversation about the left and identity politics is driven by policy wonks in the Democratic Party who blamed Hillary Clinton for the party’s loss in 2016. Chief among them is Columbia professor Mark Lilla who described BLM as a “textbook example of how not to build solidarity.” You also get a Marxist version of this from Walter Benn Michaels and Adolph Reed.

Hedges has had a stick up his ass about identity politics and multiculturalism for some time. In November 2015, he wrote a screed that hailed Russell Jacoby’s “The End of Utopia”. Jacoby, according to Hedges, says that the call by multiculturalists for inclusion within the power structure does nothing to challenge the deadly “monoculturalism” of corporatism. This, of course, is exactly what Walter Benn Michaels and Adolph Reed argue as well.

Probably the most rancid example of this political philosophy can be found in Todd Gitlin’s 1995 “The Twilight of Common Dreams” that complained about how multiculturalism (ie, uppity women, gays and Blacks) alienates blue collar workers from voting Democrat. In 1997, Gitlin and the late Bogan Denitch spoke together at a plenary session at the Socialist Scholars Conference denouncing “identity politics”. I encourage you to read Jesse Lemisch’s “Angry White Men on the Left” for a brilliantly lacerating take on the two:

GITLIN HAS RECENTLY MOVED FROM THE SOCIOLOGY DEPARTMENT at Berkeley to become Professor of Culture, Journalism and Sociology at New York University. His arrival in New York City seems to have given added strength and legitimacy to a pre-existing condition: a straight male backlash among New York left intellectuals. This was especially clear in the presentation by Bogdan Denitch, the conference organizer, who spoke along with Gitlin in the session on identity politics.

In his introduction to the conference program, Denitch had written, “We must learn to effectively confront the splintering politics of identity…” Speaking alongside Gitlin, it seemed that Denitch (who had arrived at the same conclusions on his own) had nonetheless been freed from a great burden, now that prestigious validation had been given to the attack on most kinds of feminism, gay liberation and black self-organization. In a truculent and martyred spirit, he dragged out the old Lasch-ian vocabulary with its condemnation of “self-indulgence” (as if those who organize themselves on any basis other than class are frivolous, irresponsible and destructive). To a sprinkling of applause from other angries in the audience, Denitch announced, “we don’t care if you are gay; we want to know whether you are a left gay!” And he was positively ferocious about some unspecified excesses by feminists which seemed to have been performed directly on his person. Whatever it was, I felt sorry for him and the obvious resultant trauma. As more of this kind of belligerence appears within its ranks, DSA is going to have to figure out where it stands.

People new to Marxist politics like Chris Hedges probably have no idea what kind of background David North has. He was a member of the Workers League in the USA that was the satellite of Gerry Healy’s Workers Revolutionary Party in England that in its prime had enough clout to recruit Vanessa Redgrave.

Healy was expelled from his own party in 1985 after it was revealed that he was a sexual predator. In Chapter 11 of Bob Pitt’s “The Rise and Fall of Gerry Healy”, we get the picture of someone who might be described as the Harvey Weinstein of the left, capitalizing on his cult status rather than the promise to an actress of getting a role in a Quentin Tarantino movie:

What was the character of this sexual abuse? It was later stated that the women Healy pressurised into having sexual relations with him ‘mistakenly believed that the revolution – in the form of the “greatest” leader demanded this, the most personal sacrifice of all. They were not coerced … physically, but every pressure was brought to bear on them as revolutionaries’. The situation was ‘not so much rape but … sexual abuse by someone in a position of power and trust’.6 It was, Dave Bruce comments, ‘wholesale sexual corruption in a manner analogous to these religious sects. There’s a very close parallel’.7

David Walsh, North’s film critic at wsws.org, is very upset over the stink women are raising over Weinstein and other sexual predators. He takes particular issue with Ronan Farrow, whose reporting on Weinstein in the New Yorker magazine was quite devastating:

Ronan Farrow, who helped launch the current campaign with his exposé of Harvey Weinstein in the New Yorker, personifies the nexus between middle class moralizing, the Democratic Party and high-level state operations. The son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, Farrow began working “in some unspecified capacity” (Politico) for US diplomat (and Democrat) Richard Holbrooke when he was a teenager. At one point, Farrow served as a speechwriter for Holbrooke, who, as the WSWS noted in a 2010 obituary, was “a man steeped in the commission and cover-up of bloody crimes” from Vietnam to the Balkans, Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond.

So, dear readers, this must mean that all this stuff about Weinstein jerking off into a potted plant while he blocks an actress from leaving his office might lead to a nuclear war or something. (Don’t forget that I told David North that WWIII was not imminent over the fighting in Donetsk. He never forgave me.)

This is how David North’s cult sees all these uppity women complaining about getting fucked over by men like Harvey Weinstein or Gerry Healy for that matter:

The stage is set for an explosion of the class struggle, in the US and around the globe. Every social layer is propelled into motion. The affluent middle class resents those above and fears the working class below. Historically impotent and incapable of reorganizing society in a progressive fashion, this social grouping aspires to changes that “will make the existing society as tolerable and comfortable for themselves as possible.” (Marx)

The #MeToo movement, like Black Lives Matter, emanates from this layer. It represents one portion of the upper-middle class. There are certainly some powerful men who will lose out if this movement has its way. However, they are mere “collateral damage” in the eyes of more farsighted sections of the ruling elite, including leading Democrats, the New York Times, Washington Post, etc., who recognize the value of the sexual misconduct campaign in strengthening identity politics and generally distracting attention from the cancerous social inequality, the danger of dictatorship and the drive to war.

So, here we have it. The dead end of anti-identity politics. If women or blacks complain too much about getting raped or shot by a racist cop, they are “distracting attention from the cancerous social inequality, the danger of dictatorship and the drive to war.” I hope that someone who has Hedges’s ear can warn him that this has nothing to do with the task of overthrowing capitalism and building a new society on full respect for one and all. Marxism has had to deal with this “workerist” crap going back to Karl Marx’s day.

The “orthodox” Marxists like Frederic Sorge were similar to David North while Victoria Woodhull was much more like the feminist or Black Marxists of today. She wrote:

The sexual relation, must be rescued from this insidious form of slavery. Women must rise from their position as ministers to the passions of men to be their equals. Their entire system of education must be changed. They must be trained to be like men, permanent and independent individualities, and not their mere appendages or adjuncts, with them forming but one member of society. They must be the companions of men from choice, never from necessity.

The debate on the left about “identity politics” has to transcend the obsessions of people like Mark Lilla or Walter Benn Michaels. It doesn’t matter if we are building a movement that loses the support of some whites because it defends the right of transgender people to choose the bathroom they are comfortable in or the need for affirmative action in the building trades or wherever it is needed. Unless we are ready to challenge injustice on all fronts, we will never create the vanguard that is so necessary today.

In “What is to be Done”, Lenin wrote:

Why is there not a single political event in Germany that does not add to the authority and prestige of the Social-Democracy? Because Social-Democracy is always found to be in advance of all the others in furnishing the most revolutionary appraisal of every given event and in championing every protest against tyranny…It intervenes in every sphere and in every question of social and political life; in the matter of Wilhelm’s refusal to endorse a bourgeois progressive as city mayor (our Economists have not managed to educate the Germans to the understanding that such an act is, in fact, a compromise with liberalism!); in the matter of the law against ‘obscene’ publications and pictures; in the matter of governmental influence on the election of professors, etc., etc.

Social-Democracy is always found to be in advance of all the others in furnishing the most revolutionary appraisal of every given event and in championing every protest against tyranny…It intervenes in every sphere and in every question of social and political life. That should be our watchword just as it was Lenin’s in 1903.

52 Comments »

  1. In the opening paragraph, you discuss the Socialist Equality Party’s “campaign against the new Google algorithms” and allege that the SEP “made it sound as if they were being singled out because of their threat to American capitalism whereas other left websites were affected as well.”

    In fact, the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), published by the International Committee of the Fourth International, clearly stated:

    “In the summer of 2017, the World Socialist Web Site published information exposing Google’s manipulation of search results, beginning in April, to limit traffic to left-wing sites. The WSWS reported a nearly 70 percent decline in readers resulting from Google searches. Of the 150 top Google search terms that, until April 2017, had generated traffic to the WSWS, 145 no longer produced even a single search result for our website. The WSWS investigation also showed that other oppositional websites, like globalresearch.ca, consortiumnews.com, counterpunch.org, alternet.com, wikileaks.com and truthdig.org, had experienced substantial declines in Google search-generated readership.”
    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/01/23/pers-j23.html

    The consistent position of the SEP has been that “Google is manipulating its Internet searches to restrict public awareness of and access to socialist, anti-war and left-wing websites.”
    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/08/25/pers-a25.html

    The Socialist Equality Party. its “International”, and their predecessors, have a long history of slandering political opponents on the left. That is no justification for using similar methods to attack the SEP.

    Comment by Alan Ginsberg — February 7, 2018 @ 12:34 am

  2. “Google has especially targeted the World Socialist Web Site, the most widely read socialist Internet publication.”

    https://petitions.wsws.org/fightcensorship/

    Comment by louisproyect — February 7, 2018 @ 12:39 am

  3. You should see how rabid the WSWS are in regards to this. The psychotically obsessed Walsh (Who writes about nothing else these days), had his finger on the trigger back before this Google mess started, and banned anyone who offered anything to the contrary of his anti-identity politics screeds. But now seemingly has to relax it, and allow the occasional rebuttal, letting his fireants swarm them instead. I managed to make a handful of comments there, and however tepid, I made one mistake. All the comments I had removed were on David Walsh articles.

    I love how Walsh and his cult append their platitudes of not supporting harassment or rape to a typical attack, but then proceed to undermine it all with their meter length acid rants. I don’t think there is a single lech they haven’t supported come to think of it. You’ll find people denying marriage rape in the comments (i.e a dude named ‘Deplorable), and one of Walsh’s most sycophantic followers Carolyn Zeramba (who has written for the site), then proceeding to defend and upvote it. She also blamed a contingent of lesbians for being the main component of this recent #metoo campaign. This, on top of Walsh being more active in the comments section. He seems quite angry these days in fact.

    I think there is some discomfort in all this, as the whole of the WSWS doesn’t seem to tally much comments, but for the salaciousness of Walsh’s bullshit. For all the claims that identity politics are a “Distraction”, the rest of that Cthulhu mass of cultists can’t seem to care enough about all the other articles, with the exception of something on Trump of course. If that group is headed for another split in the future, it will be over this. Good F’ing riddance in that case.

    Comment by Dr. Pagoda (@OLDDEADWHITEMEN) — February 7, 2018 @ 12:43 am

  4. The SEP doesn’t like anybody it seems. But since Google has supposedly targeted them (They haven’t), they’ve embraced a number of people, like Hedges and Parry. Even extolled their mention in the New York Times.

    Comment by Dr. Pagoda (@OLDDEADWHITEMEN) — February 7, 2018 @ 12:45 am

  5. You might be interested in a critique I wrote about Hedges’ misreading of Leftist history and what underlies it 5 year ago. Here:
    https://www.mitchelcohen.com/a-response-to-chris-hedges-violence-tactics-revolutionary-strategy-occupy-wall-street/

    One of the many things wrong is his wrong notion of what is a “class” …. Chris Hedges looked to The Liberal Class for making the progressive changes he sought, and thus urged Occupy and other activists not to “alienate” members of that ill-defined “class”, thus skewing the politics of our movements.

    Another thought: There’s a difference between organizing off of experiences one undergoes as a result of their “identity” and “identity politics”, which raises that “identity” as the vehicle through which capitalism can be changed. Two very different things, and we really should separate them from each other.

    Mitchel Cohen

    Comment by Mitchel Cohen — February 7, 2018 @ 7:12 am

  6. Good piece… post industrial capitalism has blurred the social distinction of the working and has altered it’s class conciousness. .. intersectionality has added layers of complexity. ..good piece

    Comment by riskrapper — February 7, 2018 @ 9:33 am

  7. Although I don’t like ‘identify politics’, and most of your readers wouldn’t like my political identity, let me anyway contribute a historical tid-bit from David North’s alma mater, Tim Wohlforth’s Healyite Workers League: Comrade Wohlforth: “The working class hates fags and women’s libbers, and so do we.”

    Comment by doug1943 — February 7, 2018 @ 2:00 pm

  8. Google’s target was faux news. That’s it. I don’t like the way they reduced their returns on hits either but it certainly wasn’t aimed at wsws.org which plays very little role. They targeted breitbart, various right-wing and alt-right sites. wsws.org as well as the marxists.org (the largest publisher of classic Marxist works in the world) got hit with reduced returns from google for some searches. There is simply no evidence that this was *aimed* at wsws.org. They are right to kvetch about it but to myopically reduce this an “it’s all about us” is simply nonsense. It was aimed at the far-right coming up as “legitmate” news sources. In one of their articles wsws did a search for “Leon Trotsky” and low an behold they were not returned in the results. I’m not surprised as “Trotsky” or “Leon Trotsky” is not a large part of their archive. The MIA returned several hits with these though we were lowered a few places in the standing to “below the fold” so to speak. Trotsky is mentioned far more on MIA than the wsws by around 100 times. Yet we were still returned as a search result. (when searching for anything and one knows the web site they want to search as opposed to a general search, tact on “marxist.org” or the name of the web site and results will be returned primarily for that site.

    There is zero reason wsws should be listed at the top of a “Trotsky” search as they mention the term “Trotsky” no more than any other site of self-described Trotskyist organizations.

    Comment by davidwalters66 — February 7, 2018 @ 2:26 pm

  9. I have come to agree completely with the negative view of wsws and the SEP expressed here eloquently by Louis and others. I do, however, vividly recall a time not so long ago when I read the wsws with interest because at the time I knew of no other website that expressed revolutionary Marxist views in (as I saw it) a non-Stalinist way with the clarity that I then believed I had found in their pages. Needless to say, I was then unfamiliar with the calamity brought on the British left by Gerry Healy, the nutty lawsuits, the conspiracy theorizing and lies about alleged GPU and FBI spies surrounding Trotsky (most notoriously the slander against Joseph Hanson, first announced by Healy and continued by the eponymous “David North” and his sect), and all the other things lurking in the SEP woodwork and waiting to come out and bite the unwary–Healy’s comments re “fags” and feminists for example.

    As to the high-level line North and Hedges are taking–that the left is currently blowing itself up–this is in fact in a very general sense true and is a sentiment often expressed in these pages, although in a critically different way (Putinsm/Assadism being one of the most potent explosives in the mix). Much of what North expounds is just Marxism 101–it sounds new to Hedges, and through his influence, is likely to sound new to others.

    It’s also true that “identity politics” as represented by eg Hilary Clinton’s nauseating neoliberal rainbow of different colored entrepreneurs of varying sexualities and ethnicities is a source and sink of the libertarian individualist delusions that have crippled the American Left since the Vietnam War movement. The so-called poetry of Bob Dylan is shot through with this crap. The radical reportage of Glenn Greenwald is vitiated by it. Every corporation in America preaches to its neophytes that assimilating to the company Borg is the path to fulfilling one’s Precious Essence. That tradition descends in an unbroken line from Bunyan’s Mister Christian haring off across the fields in pursuit of salvation, and is through that tradition indissolubly linked to the brain-dead religiosity that is now flourishing everywhere in the USA (note the Hedges is the son of a Presbyterian minister and something of a preacher in his own right). It isn’t wrong to oppose this; it’s necessary–with thought and in the right way.

    What we should take away from the always credulous Hedges falling for the David North/RT bullshit IMHO is that serious people are listening to Hedges/North and finding them a gateway to Marxism, undeterred by the sponsorship of RT. Hedges has many faults, as others here have pointed out, but this is a significant development and one that should be countered seriously not only to discredit Hedges but more importantly to (if possible) set him straight and prevent his influence from leading others down the path of pseudoleftist defeat.

    A certain version–no a certain group of versions–of identify politics fueled by the general neoliberal ideology of self-realization and self-fulfillment (in either a romantic or a hard-nosed version or both) really is a major component of the clustered assault currently being perpetrated by the US left on itself.

    If all we conclude from the unholy nexus of Hedges, “North,” and RT is that Hedges has finally gone off the deep end, we will be missing the point. We have to both correct the message, and, bearing in mind that H&N have an audience of neophytes, deny them ownership of the valid parts of what they are saying, as it is likely that a lot of people will be listening.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 7, 2018 @ 4:53 pm

  10. Bruce Dixon:

    Time to begin critically unpacking intersectionality and its nappy headed stepchild afro-pessimism

    “The US left has a fundamental problem, perhaps the root of most of its other problems. That fundamental problem is that the US left is not organized as or led by any class conscious or class oriented formations. Union membership is somewhere around 5% of the workforce, and major unions have long been captured by the Democratic party. So the US left is composed of the black activists in their boxes, the gender activists in theirs, the immigrants and their friends over here, Latinos over there, the environmentalists in their corners and the rest in their own zones, each and every one doggedly “centering” their own experience, and if we’re lucky “intersecting” now and then.

    It’s a recipe for impotence and futility. But this is the US of A, we tell ourselves, where for some reason a class struggle oriented left has not emerged in any of our lifetimes. Adjusting to this toxic reality rather than taking the responsibility for changing it, US leftists have developed a self-deceiving and self-limiting language, a discourse that normalizes a kind of alternate universe in which class analysis is deprecated and discouraged and class struggle taken pretty much off the table. Intersectionality, and its nappy headed stepchild Afro-pessimism are prominent features of the stifling closet in which the US left has locked itself.”

    https://www.blackagendareport.com/intersectionality-hole-afro-pessimism-shovel-we-need-stop-digging

    Comment by David Green — February 7, 2018 @ 8:10 pm

  11. Karen and Barbara Fields:

    DD
    Why do you think that many on the liberal left find the analysis of Trump’s rise that begins and ends with whiteness and racism — obviously Trump is a virulent racist — but this analysis of racism that lacks political and economic context: why is that attractive to so many?
    KF
    It’s a mystery to me unless I consider how little historical knowledge or reading they have about how class societies operate, even our own. It is attractive to think that the thing to consider is our identities and how to learn to get along with each other — how to have good interracial race relations. They didn’t know when cotton was the product produced by slaves in the South and white people that didn’t count in the mills; that didn’t enter into the history our generation has inherited. It’s good to state that there has been some history recently that has brought that into view.
    BF
    There has also been a period of such intense political demobilization that large numbers of people — certainly it’s true for people the age of my students, but it’s also true of the people who like to think of themselves as the opinion-setters, the scribbling and babbling classes, the people who write for the general public, and so on — can’t tell which end is up.

    My sister and I are old enough that we were at the 1963 March of Washington, which has now become almost a mythic event. One thing that is indelibly part of our memory of that occasion is that many of the people in the crowd that assembled were wearing the insignia of the UAW, International Ladies Garment Workers Union, Steelworkers, Mineworkers, and so on. The march’s official designation was a March for Jobs and Freedom. It was part of political mobilization at that time: in the midst of the Cold War and the purges, people understood the connection between labor and civil rights. The honorary leader, the person’s whose idea it was, A. Philip Randolph, was a labor organizer, a union activist as well as an activist in demanding rights for black people. Those connections were so natural that even dummies and political novices understood them. They have been gone for a long time and the result is that when somebody in the press says working class or working-class voters, they invariably mean white people. They forgot that most Afro-Americans in this country are working people. Most Latinos, however you define that ambiguous term, are working people. Southeast Asian migrants, most of them are working people, and indeed the same is true of a good many East Asian migrants.

    We have allowed that language to become part of the whiteness talk. The result is that when things happen — as they are happening hot and heavy today targeted against working people — our reaction fragments us so that we cannot even talk about it that way. It’s this attack on people of color or that attack on black people, or immigrants, or Dreamers, or whatever it is. We’re not going to get anywhere that way, because we have defined any possible political alliance out of existence before we even tried to build it. If Ta-Nehisi Coates — I like him a lot, by the way, and have only met him a couple of times and some of his work is deeply moving — but if he were right about the situation, you would have to say there is no exit; there is nothing we can do. It reminds me of what people would say about the prospect of nuclear war back in the days when we had air-raid drills: the only thing you can do about it is put your head between your legs and kiss your behind goodbye.

    That seems to be the political prescription that comes out of the primordial white racism argument. There’s nothing to do about it but to put your head between your legs and kiss your behind goodbye.

    https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/01/racecraft-racism-barbara-karen-fields

    Comment by David Green — February 7, 2018 @ 8:17 pm

  12. Re:
    “The Socialist Equality Party. its “International”, and their predecessors, have a long history of slandering political opponents on the left. That is no justification for using similar methods to attack the SEP.”

    I don’t think Louis or anyone here is guilty of that charge. And frankly when they complained about Google’s algorithm downgrading them, I initially did feel that this was an issue of general concern. But then what I read from them wasn’t like the earlier quote, denouncing Google’s action in relation to not only theirs but other left websites. Rather the one I read complained that Google was taking hits away from their website while sending MORE to left websites that it called “liberal” or “social-imperialist” because they gave a voice to the supposed “regime-change” policy of revolution in Syria for instance. That’s where solidarity stops.

    And by the way, if the Google algorithm happens to identify WSWS as being a bit heavy on fake news, well, I’m not going to report a programming error.

    Comment by Jeff — February 8, 2018 @ 12:18 am

  13. Please don’t be surprised my Mark Lilla’s conclusions; I still remember his essays in the NYRB in the early ’90s after the fall of the Soviet Union, suggesting that any sort of intellectual dreaming of a better society would inevitably end in Stalinist massacres.

    Comment by S M J — February 8, 2018 @ 7:03 am

  14. my = by

    Comment by S M J — February 8, 2018 @ 7:03 am

  15. Walter Benn Michaels:

    “The defensible heart of identity politics is its commitment to opposing forms of discrimination like racism, sexism, and homophobia. I share that commitment. But opposing discrimination today has no more to do with a left politics than do equally powerful ethical commitments against, say, violence or dishonesty. Why? Because the core of a left politics is its critique of and resistance to capitalism—its commitment to decommodifying education, health care, and housing, and creating a more economically equal society. Neither hostility to discrimination nor the accompanying enthusiasm for diversity makes the slightest contribution to accomplishing any of those goals. Just the opposite, in fact. They function instead to provide inequality with a meritocratic justification: If everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, there’s no injustice when some people fail.

    This is why Adolph Reed and I have been arguing that identity politics is not an alternative to class politics but a form of it: It’s the politics of an upper class that has no problem with seeing people being left behind as long as they haven’t been left behind because of their race or sex. That’s why elite institutions like universities make an effort to recruit black people as well as white into the ruling class. They’re seeking to legitimate the class structure, not abolish it. Of course, if we’re going to accept a ruling class, one that’s open to people other than straight white men is preferable. But shouldn’t the left be more committed to doing something for the vast majority of people of all races, genders, and sexual orientations who will never belong to that class? We’ve never thought the fact that a few white people get to become rich was a victory for poor white people, so why should substituting in a few black people change the equation?

    It’s not racism that creates the difference between classes; it’s capitalism. And it’s not anti-racism that can combat the difference; it’s socialism. We’re frequently told that black poverty is worse than white poverty—more isolating, more concentrated—and maybe that’s true. But why, politically, should it matter? You don’t build the left by figuring out which victim has been most victimized; you build it by organizing all the victims. When it comes to the value of universal health care, for example, we don’t need to worry for a second about whether the black descendants of slaves are worse off than the white descendants of coal miners. The goal is not to make sure that black people are no sicker than white people; it’s to make everybody healthy. That’s why they call it universal.

    You don’t build a left by arguing over who has been most victimized; you build it by organizing all the victims.

    Discrimination is neoliberalism’s theory of inequality. Even poor whites have started to buy it—a large number appear to think anti-white bias is their real problem! Obviously, they’re wrong, but when, as Barbara and Karen Fields point out, the language of victimization has become so impoverished that it consists of nothing but discrimination, you go with what you’ve got. A new left politics will need to change that. Instead of a more complicated understanding of identity—of race, sex, and intersectionality (that opiate of the professional managerial class)—we need a more profound understanding of exploitation.”

    Comment by David Green — February 8, 2018 @ 10:08 pm

  16. Green, aren’t you capable of writing your own thoughts? As for Benn Michaels and Reed, they are opposed to affirmative action and reparations for slavery. I don’t want to be part of a left that stands on such workerist nonsense. You, of course, are welcome to it.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 8, 2018 @ 10:33 pm

  17. Resistance to police brutality by people of color has done as much or more to radicalize people towards the left than any other social movement of the last 15 years. In Oakland, it predated Occupy, formed the backbone of Occupy and has survived beyond Occupy (although it has finally encountered a potentially mortal enemy: accelerated gentrification).

    The reason is straightforward. The police are the instrument by which racism, poverty and economic exploitation have been enforced upon them, and they know it. Resistance to police brutality radicalizes people now much in the same way that the draft and the Vietnam War radicalized people in the 1960s.

    Any left movement that maligns the participants in these social movements as practitioners of middle class identity politics is a dead end that will accomplish nothing.

    It becomes obvious when one recognizes that the working class is more and more of color, more and more of women, with many LGTBI people as well. In California, cis white males form a distinct minority.

    In order for the left to reemerge as a force in the US, it will have to recognize and prioritize the social experiences of precisely those people that Hedges dismisses as purveyors of “identity politics”.

    Comment by Richard Estes — February 8, 2018 @ 11:19 pm

  18. Lol @Louis Proyect sounds like you’re pretty mad that the WSWS is reaching a broad audience.

    Here’s something that will make your blood boil: I’m a young person, in my mid-20s, and all my friends and I go to the WSWS to get our news. We cite it in our school assignments, we share it with coworkers, we post it on social media and defend it in the comments section. Even my friends who aren’t socialists tell me they read the WSWS, at least on occasion, because they respect it. It’s read by workers and young people all over the world who are against war, capitalism, and the censorship of the internet. I came across it at a major public university in the US where basically everyone knows about it.

    Your site, on the other hand, cheerleads the BS anti-Russia hysteria, supports the US war in Syria, and mocks the fight against the internet. You may not care about free speech online, probably in part because you’re old, in part because you’re right-wing, and in part because you are so blinded by your anti-communist rage against the WSWS that you’ll support anything they’re against.

    Maybe your site is the accidental byproduct of corporate-government internet censorship. If so, I’d oppose that censorship. But it would be really pathetic if your readership is declining but you still oppose the WSWS anti-censorship campaign because your anti-communism doesn’t even allow you to defend your own tiny wordpress site. Boy would that be pathetic.

    Anyway, you do you. I’m impressed by the consistency with which you are so exactly wrong on every single issue. My friends and I laugh because you’re basically a compass that points in the exact opposite direction from socialism. Meanwhile the WSWS is attracting a massive following. Very scary! It’s turning into a “mass sectarian” movement! Your worst fear!!!

    Comment by Mass Sectarian — February 11, 2018 @ 11:16 pm

  19. Oops typo in my comment in first sentence of third para. Not fight against the internet but *fight against internet censorship*

    Comment by Mass Sectarian — February 11, 2018 @ 11:18 pm

  20. I’m a young person, in my mid-20s, and all my friends and I go to the WSWS to get our news.

    Well, that demands a lot less energy and talent than organizing people. Probably gives you a lot of more time for the video games in your parents’ basement.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 12, 2018 @ 12:39 am

  21. @Mass Secterian

    Haha. You think those white dudes at the WSWS aren’t old? The entire comment section is filled with people that are near Methuselah in age. Not to mention, their ridiculous rigidity and orthodox view of Marxism, makes them about as flexible as rock.

    Comment by Dr. Pagoda (@OLDDEADWHITEMEN) — February 12, 2018 @ 5:25 am

  22. @proyect–insulting young people for having to live with parents? Do you know what student loans are? You really don’t even listen to yourself, do you? Some “socialist” you are. https://gph.is/1gF9xGQ

    Comment by Mass Sectarian — February 12, 2018 @ 2:00 pm

  23. @proyect–insulting young people for having to live with parents?

    No, only you.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 12, 2018 @ 2:08 pm

  24. Louis, have the decency to cut the bullshit. When was the last time you ever lifted a finger to organize anyone? Really, given your penchant for intersectionality, you would find fertile ground on any college campus. The Identity Politics crowd would like nothing better than for some washed-up Marxist to join them in fighting for trans-gender bathrooms. Maybe you all could have a piss-in on the Quad.

    Comment by David Green — February 12, 2018 @ 5:38 pm

  25. When was the last time you ever lifted a finger to organize anyone?

    1991, when I was the president of Tecnica. That was the end of 24 years of activism, now that you ask. What an asshole troll has to show for his miserable life is posting comments here. Oh, I am talking about the WSWS fan boy, not you–I guess.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 12, 2018 @ 6:01 pm

  26. “The Identity Politics crowd would like nothing better than for some washed-up Marxist to join them in fighting for trans-gender bathrooms.”

    So is “Identity Politics” now a euphemism for transphobia? There are actually transgender people who are also working class. Shocking, I know.

    Comment by Richard Estes — February 14, 2018 @ 7:54 pm

  27. “So is “Identity Politics” now a euphemism for transphobia? There are actually transgender people who are also working class.”

    No, transphobia is a euphemism for evading serious discussion of neoliberalism.

    Comment by David Green — February 15, 2018 @ 5:14 am

  28. Oh, yeah. Letting “them” into the wrong bathroom prevents us from discussing unemployment.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 15, 2018 @ 12:24 pm

  29. “Oh, yeah. Letting “them” into the wrong bathroom prevents us from discussing unemployment.”

    No, it prevents the liberal, Obama-loving IP crowd from discussing unemployment. You pander to the people who have no intention of ever discussing unemployment, unless it affects them personally, and even then not in a way that would question capitalism.

    Your Marxism turns out to be a sham. You need to get out more, Louis; I mean, out of movie theaters.

    Comment by David Green — February 15, 2018 @ 6:35 pm

  30. Green, you have the same shitty politics on transgender people as the Socialist Equality Party apparently. I guess that goes along with your adoration of the mass murderer Bashar al-Assad.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 15, 2018 @ 6:40 pm

  31. Louis, read what Benn Michaels has to say about it. He’s absolutely right. How sad that you use such an issue as a distraction, and then top it off by implicitly justifying neoconservative foreign policy. You come off as a hardcore Clintonite. Perhaps you can share your theory on Russiagate next.

    Comment by David Green — February 15, 2018 @ 9:26 pm

  32. [“Oh, yeah. Letting “them” into the wrong bathroom prevents us from discussing unemployment.”

    No, it prevents the liberal, Obama-loving IP crowd from discussing unemployment. You pander to the people who have no intention of ever discussing unemployment, unless it affects them personally, and even then not in a way that would question capitalism.”]

    Besides the contradiction between the first and second sentence, this is one of the most creative expressions of transphobia that I’ve encountered. But that doesn’t make it anymore acceptable given the physical and emotional abuse that transgender people experience.

    Comment by Richard Estes — February 15, 2018 @ 11:29 pm

  33. Yes, addressing transphobia is absolutely key to challenging neoliberalism. Right. Just like supporting gay marriage was. Right. Just unbelievable–stupid and childish.

    Comment by David Green — February 16, 2018 @ 5:07 am

  34. You can’t walk and chew gum at the same time Green? How much progress on undercutting neo-Liberalism do you think would have been made, if these so-called ‘Afterthought pursuits’ did not exist? No difference.

    Comment by Dr. Pagoda (@OLDDEADWHITEMEN) — February 16, 2018 @ 7:54 am

  35. @Dr. Pagoda. I absolutely disagree; support for progressive IP causes is certainly a way of avoiding discussing neoliberalism and war, often by those who have benefitted most from neoliberalism and war. I see it every single day in my Big Ten college community. Identity politics is a huge obstacle to even the discussion of these fundamental issues, and I’m surprised that I even have to make this argument on a blog allegedly devoted to Marxist perspectives. As Nancy Fraser says, identity politics is progressive neoliberalism.

    Obviously neither you nor I have a clue as to how much progress could have been made. But the point is that with all attention focused on discrimination rather than exploitation, such progress against neoliberalism has no chance.

    For example, we have a local Jewish-Zionist group called Bend the Arc that is devoted to supporting the Dreamers. How easy it is for such people to sanitize themselves.

    Comment by David Green — February 16, 2018 @ 3:36 pm

  36. Green, socialists have to support gay marriage, the right of transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, open borders, full employment, etc. as part of a total emancipatory program. The ISO and Socialist Alternative are both examples of having a full commitment to working class economic demands as well as the rights of gays to equality. Your problem is that you are wallowing around in the WSWS pigsty instead.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 16, 2018 @ 3:46 pm

  37. Louis, I don’t read WSWS except on occasion, and I’m not identified with them. I support the rights of gays, etc. The question is why those who do support gay rights by and large do not support a “total emancipatory program.” You avoid answering this by employing pig-headed vitriol. I think part of the problem is you’re not really active in the larger liberal-left political community. You have nothing to do on a daily basis with local politics. You have no experience with the faultlines between liberals and leftists. You are just cocooned in your alleged Marxism, which turns out to be naïve at best in addressing practical issues of organization and strategy.

    Comment by David Green — February 16, 2018 @ 5:18 pm

  38. The question is why those who do support gay rights by and large do not support a “total emancipatory program.”

    Because they are not socialists, you idiot. They are liberals just like you.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 16, 2018 @ 5:30 pm

  39. Do you think that the Fields sisters are liberals? Do you think Glen Ford is a liberal? If so, put all their black heads and the bodies of cockroaches, so you can prove your not racist.

    Comment by David Green — February 16, 2018 @ 11:57 pm

  40. No, they are not but you are just a worthless Alternet type “pwogwessive” with some nasty overtones of the WSWS super-sectarianism. What a toxic combination.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 17, 2018 @ 12:08 am

  41. Comment #39 by David Green hit the nail on the head. Proyect’s “Marxism” applies only to himself and his ego and is far removed from any practical political reality that involves action rather than talking. But it is his staggering naivete and gullibility that really stand out. Here is a guy who claims he is a Marxist and opposed to capitalism, yet he takes his positions on the issues he rants about directly from the NYT, WaPo and other establishment media organs. Has he read Chomsky and Herman’s Manufacturing Consent? Does he know how governments and the owners of the mass media influence the citizenry via establishment-friendly public and private media organizations? Does he think US/NATO foreign policy is noble and righteous and all about freedom and human rights?

    What blows me away is that he gets on his high horse and lectures people who support “the Assad regime” yet he is fond of the hardcore sectarian Salafi/Wahabbi Islamists who wantonly slaughter members of other faiths and sects as well as dissenting or insufficiently puritanical co-religionists. Does he realize he is supporting al-Qaeda and, effectively, ISIS? How can you take a guy who is so shockingly ignorant about the belligerents fighting in the Syria conflict and the dynamics at play in the MENA region seriously? You can’t…the man is a textbook propaganda victim and his massive ego prevents him from even considering that some of his critics might have a point.

    Mr. Proyect, how do you reconcile your opposition to war crimes committed by one side in a conflict while simultaneously supporting war crimes committed by their opponents?

    Comment by Eric Blair — February 17, 2018 @ 4:30 am

  42. Mr. Proyect, how do you reconcile your opposition to war crimes committed by one side in a conflict while simultaneously supporting war crimes committed by their opponents?

    —-

    I guess the same way I supported the Red Army during WWII even though many war crimes were committed against Germans. Or Sherman’s march through Georgia, etc. All Civil Wars have a class basis and you have chosen the wrong side.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 17, 2018 @ 3:19 pm

  43. I think that the “toxic combination” LP refers to above can be best applied to his hyper-academic Marxist sectarianism and his penchant for identity politics and its decrepit liberal offspring intersectionality. Proyect engages in massive psychological projections emanating from his support for U.S. imperialism and his denial of what Chomsky calls the “mafia principle.”

    Comment by David Green — February 17, 2018 @ 4:59 pm

  44. And to top it off, LP supports the genuinely fascist movement that the U.S. put into power in Ukraine!

    Comment by David Green — February 17, 2018 @ 5:02 pm

  45. Green, you are so breathtakingly ignorant. Poroshenko has much more in common with Macron than he does with Orban. In fact, Ukraine’s fascists protest him violently. I bet you couldn’t name a single fascist member of Poroshenko’s government if your sorry life depended on it. Your trouble is that you don’t read anything out of your comfort zone, which is the putrid quasi-Stalinist diarrhea of Max Blumenthal, WSWS, Gareth Porter, and all the other cynical propagandists who make the CP of the 1930s look good by comparison.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 17, 2018 @ 5:13 pm

  46. “It is difficult to imagine any stable administration tolerating three years of such brazen challenges to its monopoly over the use of force, yet nearly all of the far right’s actions have gone unpunished.

    One reason behind Kiev’s inability and unwillingness to rein in the battalions is because they remain the fiercest, most battle-hardened units in the armed forces; it’s hard to send in the National Guard to restore order when the National Guard itself consists of ultranationalist formations. An equally disturbing reason is that Ukraine’s far right enjoys the support of two extraordinarily powerful politicians: Parliament Speaker Andriy Parubiy and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.

    Both men played a critical role in harnessing neo-Nazi street muscle during the winter 2013–14 Maidan uprising that resulted in the ouster of corrupt, albeit democratically elected, president Viktor Yanukovych. Parubiy’s ties with the far right go back decades: He co-founded and led the Social-National Party of Ukraine, which used neo-Nazi symbols and whose name, according to Der Spiegel, is an intentional reference to the Nazi Party.”

    https://www.thenation.com/article/the-ukrainian-far-right-and-the-danger-it-poses/

    Comment by David Green — February 17, 2018 @ 6:53 pm

  47. Apparently you didn’t understand the meaning of the Nation article you forwarded, which clearly stated:

    “In Ukraine today, power is split between Kiev and heavily armed ultranationalist battalions, which have a long record of not only clashing with Kiev but also defying the will of the EU and Washington…In addition to stymieing the Ukraine peace process and resolution of EU-Russia sanctions, the far right has flouted the rule of law, fostered instability, and undermined basic democratic institutions within Ukraine. Gangs tied to the Azov, Aidar, Right Sector, and Tornado battalions have had gun battles with police, intimidated court proceedings, overturned local elections, torched media buildings, attacked undesirable Soviet monuments, violently threatened journalists, and overtly spoken of overthrowing the government.”

    Do you not understand the meaning of the words “clashing” and “overthrowing the government”? Perhaps you should invest in a dictionary or maybe take a remedial reading class somewhere. This is a far cry from the situation in Donetsk where the separatist state and its militias shared the same super-nationalist agenda.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 17, 2018 @ 7:01 pm

  48. The article clearly states that the government, while not thoroughly neo-Nazi, is beholden to neo-Nazis. Louis, you really need some serious therapy for your ego-driven vitriol.

    Comment by David Green — February 17, 2018 @ 7:06 pm

  49. It is not thoroughly neo-Nazi? How about it is thoroughly neo-liberal, you pinhead? Not only do you need a remedial class in reading. You need to take a remedial class in political science. Poroshenko belongs to the same world as Macron and Merkel. The tiny fascist parties in Ukraine do not have mass support. They are to Poroshenko as the Nazis were to the Weimar Republic, just before Hindenburg’s election, except that they do not enjoy mass support. In fact, Ukraine is a much freer society than Putin’s Russia. Members of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions now have 20 seats under the new label Revival, while the Russian Duma is basically a tool of Kremlin policies. I understand that you know next to nothing about Ukrainian history, politics or culture but at least you might not flaunt your ignorance so shamelessly.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 17, 2018 @ 7:39 pm

  50. I agree with the WSWS on the question of Identity Politics and a very compelling argument is made in the case of Joseph Hanson and the Carlton eight. You see I am a former member of the YSA, and I can relate the fact that the SWP is shady and has and is functioning on a clandestine basis. You claim that the SEP is a cult, however the SWP leader Barnes has made millions exploiting the rank and file. The SWP long ago had been recognized as a cult with the notion of heavy agent involvement. The problem with the metoo campaign is that people are presumed guilty before they are even tried. Proyect, I think you and your critical support for identity politics is based on some unresolved white guilt. If you know the basics of identity politics, Farrakhan, reactionary anti-working class feminism, and other assorted pseudo-socialist cretins as the ISO and Socialist Alternative, you would have been more informed. I guess the lessons of the liberal movement and its outcomes have escaped you.

    Comment by dorothy imperiale — July 26, 2018 @ 1:50 am


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